Speaker, Author and Professor
of Ethics, Intercultural Ethics,
Medical Ethics & Asian Philosophy

Healthcare, Asian Philosophy & Medical Ethics Books

Spirituality and Deep Connectedness: Views on Being Fully Human

Spirituality and Deep Connectedness by Michael Brannigan

Lexington Books, Rowman & Littlefield Publishing, 2018

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What is spirituality? Does it enable us to be better persons? Is spirituality related to religion? These days, is it even relevant? On college campuses, does it promote student well-being? Does it further moral growth? Can spirituality make a difference in healthcare? What about social justice and service to the marginalized?

This rich collection of essays by respected scholars and practitioners in diverse fields in academic, healthcare, social justice, and interfaith contexts addresses these questions in strikingly profound and meaningful ways. Their voices offer alternatives to the prevailing notion of spirituality as a purely private matter, and makes a case for living spiritually through deep and genuine engagement with others, bridging our inherent and original fault-line of Self and Other. Their keen observations resuscitate the spiritual fabric of defiance against and liberation from forces of oppression which show their face not only through chronic inequities and social injustice but in consumer capitalism’s grip on our souls.

This volume’s dispatch to our minds and hearts is timely in an age of looming cynicism, pessimism, fear, and distrust. In carving out a renewed sense of what lies at the heart of living a life of the spirit, or spirituality, it offers an antidote to our widespread hermeneutic of suspicion. None of the authors claims to encapsulate one, pure meaning of the spiritual. Yet they share one collective voice: spirituality is indeed genuine when it calls forth compassion and wears the worn and tangled face of humaneness, freeing ourselves from the prison of ego. Here we find messages of hope, much needed in a time when our society seems increasingly shadowed by dark clouds. These essays remind us of what’s right in the world.


“These intelligent and searching essays reveal that spirituality is only truly significant when it enters the wider world of social relations. Spirituality and Deep Connectedness: Views on Being Fully Human is a lovely book and a valuable contribution.”

Roger S. Gottlieb, Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Japan’s March 2011 Disaster and Moral Grit: Our Inescapable In-between

Rowman & Littlefield Publishing, 2015

Cover Designer

Bill Borman

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Japan’s March 11, 2011 triple horror of earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear meltdown is its worst catastrophe since Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Recovery remains an ongoing ordeal. This book uncovers the pivotal role of longstanding cultural worldviews and their impact on responses to this gut-wrenching disaster. Through unpacking the pivotal notion in Japanese ethics of aidagara, or “in-betweenness,” it offers testament to a deep-rooted sense of community. Accounts from survivors, victims’ families, key city officials, and volunteers reveal a remarkable fiber of moral grit and resilience that sustains Japan’s common struggle to rally and carve a future with promise and hope.

Calamities snatch us out of the mundane and throw us into the intensity of the moment. They challenge our moral fiber. Trauma, individual and collective, is the uninvited litmus test of character, personal and social. Ultimately, whether a society rightfully recovers from disaster has to do with its degree of connectedness, the embodied physical, interpersonal, face-to-face engagement we have with each other. As these stories bring to light, along with Michael Brannigan’s extensive research, personal encounters with survivors, and experience as a volunteer in Japan’s stricken areas, our degree of connectedness determines how we in the long run weather the storm, whether the storm is natural, technological, or human. Ultimately, it illustrates that how we respond to and recover after the storm hinges upon how we are with each other before the storm.

Excerpt From Chapter One

Nature has its unforgiving way of reminding us that we are inescapably in-between, situated within time and place. On Friday, March 11, at 2:46 p.m., a Goliath-like trembling, later measured at a magnitude 9 earthquake, erupted seventy kilometers, 43.5 miles, off Japan’s northeast Sanriku coast. There, the earth snapped at a sea-depth of eighteen miles. The underlying tectonic plates’ shift violently lifted the seafloor upward, generating enormous tremors that cracked and rattled the earth throughout a good portion of the large northeast region of Tohoku and along the Sanriku coastline. Japan’s Pacific coastline dropped 1.2 meters (3.9 feet) and moved Honshu, Japan’s principal island, eastward by 5.3 meters, or 8 feet. Japan is now one parking space closer to our West Coast.


“This intensely moving account not only teaches us invaluable lessons regarding our societal ability to respond to disaster but, in providing extraordinary insights into the meaning of vulnerability and suffering, it also demonstrates the absolute necessity of cultivating interpersonal  face-to-face connectedness and community in order to heal—a lesson that is particularly important in our individualistic, technology-saturated, digital culture.”

S. Kay Toombs, Baylor University and author of The Meaning of Illness

“With this engaging book, Michael C. Brannigan keeps a promise he made to his late Japanese mother—to learn more about the disasters of 3/11 and to share this with others. Brannigan effortlessly interweaves stories from the people he meets with his own rich knowledge of literature, legends, history, and philosophy to develop a philosophy of humans’ relation with nature. This book is not always optimistic, but always reveals Brannigan’s warmth and genuine concern for the people he encounters.”

Brigitte Steger, University of Cambridge

“In this pioneering work Brannigan opens wide the doors on a previously understudied subject in the humanities and social sciences—disaster, trauma, and recovery.   In this compelling and highly personal account, Brannigan, a volunteer in Japan’s relief and recovery efforts, writes about Japan’s unthinkable triple disaster– earthquake-tsunami-nuclear meltdown of March 2011. He brings to this triple calamity a journalist’s eye for detail and the richness of personal testimony and interview. Yet the book is also intensely rich in ethics, philosophy, and social thought, for in Brannigan’s hands the triple disaster becomes a lens and frame for the interrogation of deep and inexorably intertwined layers of reality and awareness. Here we encounter the real dimensions of human suffering in Japan as a nation—once the model for rule-oriented social cohesiveness—and now increasingly adrift. Japan’s socio-cultural plight is the occasion for deep reflection about our “human in-betweeness”: What is the reality of our connectedness with the Earth and with each other, and can these unions sustain our need for meaning in the face of how our own precariousness? Addressing these issues with expertise in Western philosophy, Eastern thought, and Japanese culture, Brannigan demonstrates the importance of “moral grit” and with revealing comments about his own struggle to forge harmony between his Japanese and Irish-American heritages. A rich and rewarding read for anyone interested in ethics and philosophy, this book is a must for all concerned with disaster preparedness and response, victimhood, grief management, mental health, medical ethics, and public policy, as well as Japanese and cultural studies.”

Robert Paul Churchill, Elton Professor of Philosophy at the George Washington University

Cultural Fault Lines in Healthcare: Reflections on Cultural Competency

Cultural Fault Lines in Healthcare: Reflections on Cultural Competency

(Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, Rowman & Littlefield Publishing, 2012)

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An invaluable work especially for professionals and students in health care, bioethics, humanities, cultural studies, and for the educated lay reader, this volume offers a critical reflection on cultural competence and awareness in health care, an arena where world views and values often collide.


“Michael Brannigan astutely and carefully dissects challenges of intercultural exchange, especially in the extremely sensitive milieu of individual and societal relationships. Few, if any, bioethicists are so well qualified by personal and professional experience to define the nature of the fault lines and the means for their alleviation. This book is a solid and sober source of help in both personal and societal encounters where cultural literacy and competence are necessary. Brannigan’s insights will benefit society and the persons who engage each other in health care decisions and policies.”

Edmund D. Pellegrino, Georgetown University Medical Center

“This book provides an opportunity for students and health care practitioners to reflect upon the philosophical meaning of “cultural competency.” Using examples/scenarios from different cultures, Brannigan (College of Saint Rose) offers insights as a bioethicist on how to unveil the essence of cultural competency through the cultivation of presence. This intriguing work is important because American society consists of at least 66 diverse racial and ethnic groups with multiple values and worldviews. When members of diverse groups access the Western biomedical health care system, multiple clashes and conflicts can occur. To bridge these differences in cross-cultural communication, Brannigan offers insight from his work with multicultural patients and their families and caregivers. Chapter 1 discusses the challenges of colliding worldviews in pluralistic American society and health care. Chapter 2 defines cultural competency, and three critical values to understand culture: space, time, and modes of communication…A valuable resource for students and health care practitioners interested in the subject of cultural competency. Summing Up: Highly recommended.”


“This is a book about the nature of ‘cultural competency,’ its vital significance in healthcare, and the social and cultural barriers to achieving it that exist both in the process of American medical education and in the American system of health care delivery. It has a meta-message about what Brannigan regards as ‘the virtue of presence’ —how health professionals ideally should relate to, and communicate with patients and their families.”

Renee C. Fox,
Annenberg Professor Emerita of the Social Sciences, University of Pennsylvania

Striking a Balance: A Primer in Traditional Asian Values

Striking a Balance

Revised Edition (Lanham, MD: Lexington Books, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc., 2010)

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Striking a Balance offers a cogent, thoughtful, and thoroughly engaging review of the major ethical teachings in the dominant Asian traditions.  Michael C. Brannigan applies his extensive background and scholarship to craft a concise yet comprehensive introduction to Asian Ethics covering the long-standing traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Zen Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism.  He does this through the skillful use of narratives from classical and contemporary Asian literature.  Moreover, he demonstrates that despite differences, these traditions share a unifying theme in the principal ethical teachings—cultivating balance is a fundamental building block for inner harmony, moral activity, and a just society.

Through historical overview and discussion of essential ethical themes, Striking a Balance presents the rich texture of traditional Asian moral teachings in ways that are appealing, instructive, and enlightening.  The work presupposes no prior knowledge of ethics or of Asian traditions and is ideal for all who are interested in learning more about Asian Cultures and moral teachings.  It is also an invaluable text for students at the introductory as well as upper levels in ethics, Asian studies, philosophy, religion, and humanities.

Testimonials to revised edition:

Striking a Balance is an unusual, well-written introduction to Asian thought.  In addition to a clear, lucid explication of primary concepts, Michael C. Brannigan provides an insightful and philosophically sensitive retelling of a host of stories drawn from classical sources in Hinduism, Buddhism, Zen Taoism, and Confucianism.  In the process he invites the reader to explore the ethical values woven into these traditions, to get to know the people whose lives have been shaped by those values, and to reflect on a range of similarities as well as differences between Eastern and Western cultures.”

Douglas W. Shrader
State University of New York at Oneonta

“Increasingly, Americans are asking whether daunting social problems, from failing schools to violent crime, might be rooted in faulty ethical values—values that place an exaggerated emphasis on individual self-assertion over the goods of family and community.  In this readable, deeply informed book, Brannigan explores a variety of non-Western ethical traditions that strike a healthier balance between individual and communal goods.”

Gregory Bassham
King’s College

From Panelists at Association for Practical and Professional Ethics annual conference, March 2011

– Panel title: Author Meets the Critics: Striking a Balance

“First and foremost, I think the book is remarkably elegant and achieves the nearly impossible in making a concise, rich, and accessible exploration of the major Asian religions.”

Mark Wilson
Villanova University

“Striking a Balance is a welcome contribution to understanding Asia in a deeper context, the context where, as Michael Walzer has argued, thin concepts are broadened into thick accounts and experiences of intention, values, and actions the closer we get to the lived experience of human beings within their respective cultural contexts…

The strengths of Michael’s work in cross-cultural philosophy and religion have been sustained over twenty years beginning with his book Everywhere and Nowhere: The Path of Alan Watts (1988).  He has continually demonstrated a facility and depth of understanding that is crucial to a deep reading and understanding of non-Western traditions.  From my vantage point, Michael embodies Kasulis’ conditions for Biorientation.  Thus, the strengths of Striking a Balance are myriad and would be a valuable text in any cross-cultural philosophy and/or religious course.  It’s language is accessible, the selection of texts is influenced by a thoroughgoing knowledge of each of the traditions he covers, and the inclusion of review questions and bibliography will be helpful to both teacher and student.”

Thomas Pynn
Kennesaw State University

Lexington Books

Ethics Across Cultures: An Introductory Text with Readings

Ethics Across Cultures

(New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education, 2005)

Cover Designer:

Preston Thomas

Cover Image:

Liubov Popova, Still Life

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In universities and colleges across the country, more and more philosophers are approaching the study of ethics from a multi-cultural and global perspective.  With Ethics Across Cultures: An Introductory Text with Readings, Michael Brannigan has written the first comprehensive introductory text to include core readings drawn from both Eastern and Western philosophical traditions.  Brannigan’s Japanese and Irish heritage allows him unique insight into the ethical questions and dilemmas posed here.


  • Each chapter begins with a vignette or case study that immediately illustrates the topic’s real-life relevance.
  • A complete chapter addresses critical thinking and moral reasoning.
  • An engaging appendix offers 20 case studies that will foster meaningful discussion.  Each case study is illustrated with original artwork commissioned for this book.
  • Each new copy of Ethics Across Cultures is accompanied by free access to PowerWeb: Ethics—a rich online collection of classical and contemporary readings.  To view all of these readings, visit http://www.mhhe.com/powerweb.


Cross-Cultural Biotechnology: A Reader, ed

Cross-Cultural Biotechnology

Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2004

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What is biotechnology?  What are its goals?  Are there global benefits, or are there more perils than promises?  Why is it that the poor remain poor?  This new anthology provides an accessible and captivating introduction to these and other vital concerns in biotechnology.  By examining these concerns within a cross-cultural framework, Cross-Cultural Biotechnology offers a distinctive approach to helping readers understand the major legal, ethical, and social issues in this rapidly growing field.

Part 1 outlines major global issues and international policies.  The ubiquitous tension between commercialization and equitable access is made abundantly clear, as is the need for global partnership.  Part 2 examines specific biotechnological changes in various cultures: genetic research in the United States, genetic testing and regulatory concerns in Canada, embryonic research in Europe, overcoming past legacies in the former Soviet republic, Jewish and Islamic perspectives on biotechnologies, food security issues in Africa, Confucianism in Asia, and the role of indigenous cultures.  Part 3 explores global challenges: the need to balance intellectual property rights and fair access; the need for media sensitivity to cultural contexts; finally, the need to better understand and prepare for terrorism.

Although Western voices still dominate the discussion, it is time to listen to other viewpoints from other cultures.  By exposing biotechnology within a global context, this book challenges us to cultivate a shared human vision and vividly shows that cross-cultural bridge-building embraces a global voice and message: Cross-cultural bridge building is needed now, more than ever.


Michael C. Brannigan – Donald Chalmers – David Kum-Wah Chan – Margaret Coffey – Jo Ann T. Croom – Mylène Deschênes – Henrich Ganthaler – Yuri Gariev – Stella Gonzalez-Arnal – Ryuichi Ida – Jeffrey P. Kahn – Martin O. Makinde – Anna C. Mastroianni – Katharine R. Meacham – Bushra Mirza – Michael J. Morgan – Dianne Nicol – Edward Reichman – Susan E. Wallace – Larissa P. Zhiganova


“This is a fascinating collection of essays for two reasons.  It covers an extraordinary broad range of issues at the forefront of contemporary bioethical debates.  It also articulates among cultural diversities what are shared values in applications of biotechnology across cultural, political, and religious boundaries.”

Henk ten Have
Division of Ethics of Science and Technology


Ethical Issues in Human Cloning: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives

Ethical Issues in Human Cloning

(New York: Seven Bridges Press, LLC, 2001) 

Cover Design:

Stefan Killen Design

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A comprehensive anthology of the important essays on human cloning, written by prominent specialists from four perspectives: science, religion (western and nonwestern), philosophy, and law.  This timely resource makes accessible a broad range of material essential for developing sound assessments of the moral questions surrounding human cloning.


“A useful and interesting work.”

Lisa Parker
University of Pittsburgh

“Good for undergraduates as well as those at other levels.”

Peggy Battin
University of Utah

Healthcare Ethics in a Diverse Society

Healthcare Ethics in a Diverse Society

with Judith A. Boss (Brown University School of Medicine) (New York: McGraw-Hill Higher Education; originally Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company, 2001).

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Healthcare Ethics in a Diverse Society is an innovative text/reader that performs two tasks.  First, it provides a sound, comprehensive introduction to the field of conventional Western medical ethics; second, it introduces readers to cross-cultural perspectives related to the issues addressed.


  • This well-written, balanced text/reader addresses issues within the broader context of the healthcare professional, not just the physician.
  • Cultural Windows boxes integrate cross-cultural perspectives throughout the text.
  • Chapter 1 covers a broad range of ethical theories, including virtue and feminist care ethics and communitarian approaches.
  • Chapter 2 presents rules of critical reasoning with application to healthcare ethics.
  • The readings represent many of the most prominent scholars in the field and are edited to facilitate comprehension.
  • Landmark legal cases are addressed throughout the text.
  • Cases for Analysis follow each chapter along with Discussion Questions, and a detailed Glossary/Index concludes the text.


“I cannot agree more with the major goal of addressing diversity; for a nation of minorities with an increasingly diverse group of students entering healthcare, this book will fill an amazing vacuum.  The treatment of critical thinking and other cultures is crucial today and absent in comparable texts.”

Richard Noble
University of Michigan

“I very much like how the authors integrate non-Western theory in Chapter 1 to support their use of non-Western perspectives on topics in later chapters… For those of us who are tired of the very limited nature of current medical ethics discussions and who desire to bring the field along in the directions that other areas of philosophy are going, Healthcare Ethics will be a most welcome addition.”

Eric Kraemer
University of Wisconsin, La Crosse

Striking a Balance: A Primer in Traditional Asian Values

Striking a Balance

(New York: Seven Bridges Press, LLC, 2000)

Cover Design:

Inari Information Services

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A concise, yet comprehensive introduction to Asian Ethics covering the traditions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Zen, Taoism, and Confucianism.  The unifying theme of the text is that of cultivating balance as the fundamental building block for moral activity and a just society.  Each chapter contains general historical background, essential ethical themes or topics, primary sources, review essay questions, and an annotated bibliography.  This text presupposes no knowledge of ethics or of Asian traditions and is appropriate for students at the introductory as well as upper-level division in philosophy, religion, and Asian studies.


“The text covers everything that I would want included in a survey course on Asian ethics.  The material is evenly balanced, and Professor Brannigan’s focus on the thical aspect of Asian systems is maintained throughout; his use of comparative Western material is what makes this text unique.”

Richard Sherburne, S.J.

“This is a well-written and consistently interesting text.  The presentations are clear and accurate, conveying an incisive grasp of the ethics of the main Eastern traditions.”

Michael G. Barnhart
CUNY, Kingsborough Community College

Striking a Balance is crisp and accurate, and more than that, engaging and informative.  Brannigan is able to demonstrate that the contemporary Western distinction between ethics and values does not work when we study a number of great Eastern traditions.”

John Berthong
Boston University

The Pulse of Wisdom: The Philosophies of India, China, and Japan

The Pulse of Wisdom

Second Edition (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, Division of Thomson Learning, 2000)

Cover Designer:

Yvo Riezebos

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Michael C. Brannigan’s The Pulse of Wisdom introduces the philosophies of India, China, and Japan so comprehensively, and yet, so engagingly that they are accessible to students and general readers alike.  Each of the five thematic chapters—Reality, Self, Knowledge, Ethics, and Death—is organized into three sections—India, China, and Japan—so that readers can understand and compare the most important teachings, schools, and figures from these three regions.  At the end of each chapter, Professor Brannigan includes primary sources relevant to each theme from the major works in Asian philosophy.

The author’s thematic treatment retains both integrity and scholarship while avoiding a monolithic view of Eastern philosophy, rather, offering a “view from within” so that readers gain a sense of the many rooms and houses within Asian thought.

Encompassing both historical and contemporary Asian philosophers and ideas, this Second Edition features:

  • “Historical Survey”—an excellent introductory chapter surveying the history of Asian philosophy
  • Three alternative tables of contents—ordered historically and according to various schools of thought
  • Probing discussion questions—now added to the study questions in each chapter
  • Additional readings from Bhagavad Gita, Mahatma Gandhi, and Zen stories
  • Added selections on Hindu ethics, Islamic infouence in India, and the relationship between ethics and character
  • Expanded discussion of Tibetan Buddhism, India’s “untouchables” (Dalits), Chuang Tzu’s view of knowledge, epistemology, and much more


“Superior… The most useful and effective single text in the field.”

Carmine Anatasio
Wright State University

Everywhere and Nowhere: The Path of Alan Watts

Everywhere and Nowhere

American University Studies, Vol. 54 (New York: Peter Lang Publishing, 1988)

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The works of Alan Watts have had an undeniably profound impact upon contemporary Western culture.  More than any other person, he has inspired the continued widespread interest in Oriental thought.  His interpretation of Eastern viewpoints, especially from Zen Buddhism, provides the background for his unique philosophy, which centers around the quest for individual identity.  His path demands the radical transformation from our fragmented ego-conscious state the genuine self-awareness.  As long as we remain under the spell of the ego, we maintain a counterfeit relationship with self and others, perpetuating a life-long struggle against nature, time, and death.  Only when we break the chains of the illusion of ego, can we set out on the bridge to self-realization and discover who we truly are.


“… this eminently readable commentary of Watts’ version of Eastern philosophy not only makes the latter accessible to a wider audience.  It also contributes to building the bridge between philosophies and cultures.”

Joseph A. Selling
Professor, Katholieke Universiteit Leuven
Chairman, Department of Moral Theology

“Here for the first time we have a critical study of [Watts’[ thought… Brannigan gives us a systematic exposition of Watts’ positions and at the same time a critical evaluation that can help us understand the role he played in the meeting of East and West.”

Ewert Cousins
Fordham University